There is a saying, life is what you make of it… Perhaps the saying should be changed to, “Life is what you make of it, as long as you can find the time…” Sure, the title of this posting may be a tad on the dramatic side, but I believe the ideas here to be true; hence, I am making time to write this post. I’ll preface by saying that this is intended to be taken from the amateur photographer’s point of view (we are a photography blog after all!), but needless to say, this is applicable to many of life’s pleasures. There is however, a personal challenge which comes with this post.
Last month in the April 2010 edition of the PhotographyBB Online Magazine I wrote an editorial on the importance of making time for your photography. The response, to my pleasant surprise, was overwhelmingly positive so I’ve decided to extend that editorial into the blog here. It seems that many of us are at least a little guilty when it comes to putting our hobbies and passions on the back shelf when our busy lives “get in the way.” Some of our readers and my personal friends have confessed that the only reason they don’t use their cameras often is because they simply “don’t have the time.” I can understand this, I’m a busy person myself, but as I thought about this more I kept wondering why would we sacrifice our passion for down time when there is so little of it? Taking a photo takes but a mere fraction of a second, or of course it can take longer if you dedicate yourself to a shoot you’ve been wanting to do. But in either of these cases, you’d be hard pressed to argue that it wasn’t enjoyable, relaxing, or worth the time. Time is passing all of us by, and when I look back at the important achievements and moments in my life I want to remember my loved ones, and my life’s passions.
Getting started is the fun part, and picking up your camera and learning just one setting/feature at a time does not have to be time-consuming. For those of you who just cringed at the word “learning,” here’s what I know… I realize that typically “learning” requires an energy which most of us aren’t willing to invest at the end of a long day. However, I can tell you from experience that learning photography is FUN. Now, I’m not asking you to sit down and read your camera manual from front to back; that would put anyone to sleep. If you aren’t familiar with how camera settings work, flip it to auto-mode and peek at the auto-settings (to make a mental note) as you aim your camera towards something. Flip your camera to another mode like shutter or aperture priority, and take a series of shots while adjusting the settings (usually with one spin of the control wheel on the camera). Trust me, if you are doing this for the first time, as you practice you will stumble upon exciting realizations as you learn through experimentation. It’s that discovery process that makes learning photography fun, and ignites the passion to fuel your photography.
If you’ve invested in a camera, then I know you already have that passion inside you to be a photographer (be it as a hobbyist or professional). I know you are also a busy person, so for those of you who “just don’t have the time for photography,” I’m calling your bluff – here’s my challenge to you.
Take a photo right when you wake up in the morning, or before you go to sleep at night
I’m serious! Instead of storing your camera away in it’s camera bag (please don’t tell me it’s still in the box!), put your camera on your nightstand. Keep a memory card inside it, and keep the battery charged at all times (it only requires charging once every week or so if you aren’t using it regularly). I have learned from the many talented photographers out there, that anything can make a beautiful photograph. When you wake up or before you go to bed, pick up your camera and find something out your bedroom window, inside your home, inside your room, or even inside one of your dresser drawers to photograph. Better yet, experiment with different camera settings. Set your camera to aperture priority mode and shoot a 3 second exposure handheld with no flash. Intentionally blur your focus. Try shallow depths of field. Zoom in close on anything so the resulting photo gives no clues as to what you shot. It doesn’t require much of a time investment at all, the point is you will be shooting something. And with each photo you shoot, the closer you come to getting the most out of photography while improving in the process. You’ll be surprised just how much you learn over time when you experiment and practice.
I realize there are professions where this is not at all possible or safe for your camera. However, for some of people, bringing your camera to work is completely plausible. Use it to take photos of your workplace, your desk, or even your coworkers. You will find that when you involve others, your passion becomes infectious, which can further fuel your enjoyment of photography. I know so many folks who have created beautiful photo-art from photographing their workplace. It may sound a tad silly, but photo books of people and recognizable subjects from the workplace (ones that are memorable or have become inside jokes) make for the most thoughtful and well received gifts come gift-giving time. Remember, photography is about communicating to your viewers. If your workplace doesn’t inspire your photo-creativeness, then take your camera for a walk on your lunch break. Set a goal to take just one photo; surely we can make time for that.
After a long day at work, spending time with the family is probably the thing we all want to do the most. You can just as easily combine your love for your family and your passion for photography if you include them in your hobby. I’m not talking about picking up your camera and asking your children to pose for you while you practice. That’s boring for them, and you’ll be the only one getting anything out of it. Show them your camera, let them play with it (supervised), and let them photograph something. There’s no need to get hung up on camera functions and settings; just have fun with photography. Take turns each taking a photo of one family member, or even the family pet. You’ll be having fun as a family, you’ll be able to make use of your camera, and you may just be inspiring your loved one to pick up your hobby too. Sometimes even the untrained eye can surprise and even inspire you with the way they see things through a lens.
This one ties in with the suggestion above, but if your family members aren’t as interested in photography and would prefer to let you do the shooting, then do it! Take five minutes (there’s no excuse to say that you cannot make 5 minutes of time) and shoot something in your home that is of significance to you or your family. Do you have any antiques or heirlooms which have been in the family for many generations? How about a craft or piece of art that one of you made? Something from your childhood? The photographic opportunities are there for the taking – you just need to make the time.
This doesn’t have to be a daily ritual, but it’s a really fun way to enjoy your photography while being inspired by someone else’s passion. If you have a friend or family member who has a regular hobby of any kind, offer to take some photos of them doing it. Be it sports, arts/crafts, hiking, fishing, building models, etc… Offer to take some photos for them. It gives you an opportunity to try new styles of photography, and practice in all areas of photography inevitably helps to improve your familiarity with your camera/settings, composition and technique.
These are just a handful of ideas which I and various photographer friends of mine have found to be helpful in the pursuit of enjoying photography. Every photo you take makes you not only a better photographer, but a more passionate one. There is no excuse for not using your camera because you don’t have the time. “Life is what you make of it,” so no matter what, find the time to make photography (or any hobby) a fulfilling part of your life.